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Penalty Recap: Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills

You might have heard by now that the weather impacted the game a tad. Turns out penalties were no exception

There was a good chunk of time in this game between the Buffalo Bills and Indianapolis Colts where I questioned whether I’d even have a recap. I was maybe the only person excited to see Kelvin Benjamin lined up roughly three yards offside, because it meant I’d have something fun to review. Then the quarter ended and the most obvious penalty of all time was never called. I can’t even poke fun at Benjamin. It’s gotta be tough lining up with no actual lines to consider.

Anyway, we’ll be completely abandoning the normal format since the usual charts would be pointless with so few data points. Instead, get ready for an early holiday present as I turn every single penalty from this game into a riveting narrative, full of gallant heroes and daring feats. But first here’s Tre’Davious White...

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Standard Metrics

There was a total of five penalties between both teams. Both had two assessed and Indianapolis had one declined. The Bills were assessed 10 yards and the Colts were dinged for 20. In case you were wondering, all of these numbers are far below league rates.

The Bills have been getting a lucky streak with referees trending toward lenient. Brad Allen’s crew throws flags at a slightly lower pace than league average. They do not however, throw so many fewer flags that it would account for the numbers you see above. None of this is shocking I imagine.

What an absurd game.

Advanced Metrics and Harm

Thanks to a decision I’ll detail below, the Bills mitigated the assessed yards by 40% thanks to penalties. This is a fancy way of saying that the Colts gave up 4 yards of ground by accepting a penalty. This means penalties cost the Bills a grand total of 6 yards on the day. The Colts had strictly the 20 assessed yards.

For Harm, the Bills total comes out to 1.6. The Colts landed at 5.0 Harm. Both had relatively good days in the grand scheme of things. But once we get to the narratives, you’ll see that a penalty arguably lost the game for the Colts.

Penalty Short Stories

The Tawny Scrawny QB

Once there was a quarterback by the name of Jacoby Brissett who loved to toss passes. He would go around and toss passes all day. This worried the other positions, especially those on Buffalo’s team. One day, a bold Buffalo by the name of Kyle Williams approached the QB to discuss his tendency to toss passes. The QB was so shocked he tossed a pass nowhere near anyone else and a brave zebra yelled at him for it.

Jacoby Brissett was flagged for intentional grounding, which set back a promising drive at the end of the first half. The Colts couldn’t recover and punted. 2.0 Harm here (10 yards + 1 down).

The Penalty That Almost Was

Long ago, it was decreed that teams who were out of time outs would be sternly lectured if they sustained an injury with two minutes or less in a half. If it happened a second time, they’d be told, it would be a penalty. But since it only happened once on Sunday, it was not one.

At the end of the first half with no timeouts remaining, Kenny Moore II was hurt after the two minute warning. If this happened twice the team would have been penalized. So technically this doesn’t count, but it comes up so rarely I wanted to talk about it.

The Tortoise and the Guard

Once upon a time, a slow moving Tortoise, bedecked in white and blue, challenged a fast moving offensive guard named Vladimir Ducasse to a race. The guard was so excited that he began the race a little too early. This was so disappointing to the guard that the race was cancelled.

Vlad Ducasse was called for a false start on 4th and 1. This was in the 4th quarter when it looked like the Bills might go for it. On 4th and 6th, they elected to punt instead. 0.5 Harm for yards only.

The Emperor’s New Face

In a Kingdom in the snowy lands to the north, a boastful Emperor lived. He would go around and brag about how his face was so amazing and couldn’t be touched by mere mortals because of how awesome it was. Since everyone feared the Emperor, they went along with this weird story. A young lad, who was known to his friends as Adolphus Washington, was sick of these vain boasts. Approaching the Emperor, Adolphus put his hand squarely on the Emperor’s face. Though it cost his village, they recovered in time and proved that the Emperor was not to be feared.

On second and 11, the Colts gained nine yards. Washington was flagged for illegal hands to the face and the Colts elected to take the penalty. This is the penalty alluded to earlier, that helped the Bills’ field position. The Colts gained a first down, but lost 4 yards by accepting. This was the drive the Colts scored on. It could be argued they would have had reasonable chance of success either way. It was 1.1 Harm for this one. 1 down + 5 yards assessed - 4 yards “negated.”


In a time before any of us lived, a strange goblin by the name of Kamar Aiken weaved his strange magical powers. This goblin would turn plays into gold with his expert catching and blocking skills. And in return, he would ask for sentimental trinkets. But one day, he became greedy and asked for too much. This caused anger among the people, who sought for a magical talisman to set things right. They found it in the form of a small yellow cloth that negated the transaction that Aiken so coveted.

The Colts had the game won with the two point conversion. The refs talked for a preposterous amount of time then called Aiken for offensive pass interference. This wiped out the two points and pushed the Colts out of a range they were comfortable with trying to seal the game. The refs kept the flags in their pocket almost all day, but on one rare occasion it impacted the outcome as much as any play by the Colts or Bills. Negating 2 points and 10 assessed yards earns 3.0 Harm. Usually I assess negated yardage as well, but with a conversion it’s all or nothing.

Thompson and Webbel

A poor wrestler named McDermott once made the difficult decision to leave two of his beloved children in the woods alone. These children, Deonte Thompson and Joe Webb, were distraught but determined to find their way out. At one point, a witch named Kenny Moore tried to accost Deonte so that they’d never find their way home. Through sheer pluck and grit, Webb and Thompson had cleverly made a route tree that kept them on the right path. Instead of tossing the witch into an oven or something, they elected to just use their skills and map to get out of the woods and make it home.

On the miracle throw and catch from Webb to Thompson, Moore was called for defensive pass interference. The Bills declined the penalty to keep the results of the catch.

The end

Editor’s note: this might be the strangest story I’ve ever published so feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. - MRW